World Day of the Sick with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
February 10, 2022
Isaiah 61:1-3; James 5:13-16; Luke 10:25-37

 Almost eight years ago, in 2015, I was privileged to lead a pilgrimage from our diocese to the shrines of France.  For all of the places that we visited, from the Shrine of Saint Therese of Lisieux, to the Shrine of Saint Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal, to the sacred grounds of the American cemetery in Normandy, our visit to Lourdes was an experience like none other.

So many of us know Lourdes, the site of Mary’s appearance to Saint Bernadette Soubirous, to be a place of great peace, hope and healing.  And it is!  Countless numbers of faithful souls continually flock to the refreshment of the shrine’s sacred waters to be healed of their infirmities.  Yet, what touched me deeply during our visit to this little village in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains of France was the sense of community and the bond of fraternity rooted in faith that was so apparent at virtually every step of our journey.

The sick, who were present throughout the shrine, did not journey to Lourdes alone.  No, they were brought to the shrine, to its Masses, prayer services and sacred baths on stretchers and in wheelchairs through the kindness of relatives, friends, volunteers and even strangers.  It struck me that while physical healings were, no doubt, at the heart of the prayers of all who approached the shrine, the devotion of those who cared for the sick and who helped them to experience the many opportunities of God’s merciful presence were just as healing and hopeful.

Pope Francis, in his message for the 31st World Day of the Sick, focuses our attention upon the need for fraternal care and a deepened sense of accompaniment with those who are sick and suffering.  In so doing, he invites us to reflect upon today’s gospel passage from Saint Luke with its parable of the Good Samaritan.  We know it well.  Two travelers, considered pious and religious, encounter a wounded man, suffering and burdened.  Sadly, they fail to stop to offer assistance.  The third passer-by, however, a Samaritan, an outsider, is moved with compassion and takes care of the stranger on the road, treating him as a brother. In doing so, without even thinking about it, he makes a difference.  He makes the world more fraternal.  He participates in building a community – the body of Christ.

Listen to the Holy Father’s reflections.  “Illness is part of our human condition. Yet, if illness is experienced in isolation and abandonment, unaccompanied by care and compassion, it can become inhumane.  …  For this reason, on the thirty-first World Day of the Sick, …  I invite all of us to reflect on the fact that it is especially through the experience of vulnerability and illness that we can learn to walk together according to the style of God, which is closeness, compassion, and tenderness.

Pope Francis goes on, “It is crucial, then, even in the midst of illness, that the whole Church measure herself against the Gospel example of the Good Samaritan, in order that she may become a true ‘field hospital’, for her mission is manifested in acts of care, particularly in the historical circumstances of our time. We are all fragile and vulnerable, and need that compassion which knows how to pause, approach, heal, and raise up. Thus, the plight of the sick is a call that cuts through indifference and slows the pace of those who go on their way as if they had no sisters and brothers.  …  The World Day of the Sick calls for prayer and closeness towards those who suffer.”

What a special gathering this is in our cathedral today – a moment of prayer that has the power to touch our lives profoundly.  Jesus is present.  And your very presence here today – those of you who seek healing for yourselves and those of you who seek healing for those for whom you care – reflects the great blessing of how God has chosen to work in our world and how he responds to us in our pain and suffering. 

And so we bring to this moment hope and a prayer for something more – for something better – for an end to pain – for healing – for the lifting of the crosses that we carry – and most especially for the assurance that we are not alone but that God walks with us through the lives of all those souls who care for us and pray for our well-being. 

Today, Jesus invites us to receive his healing grace.  Say “yes” to his invitation to come to him with your burdens to find consolation and peace.  …  Trust that Jesus will take care of you.  …  And remember, through the wonderful Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, every one of you who approaches it with faith and hope will be healed.  …  Some may experience a physical healing.  …  All will encounter the Lord Jesus who promises to touch our hearts and give rest to our spirits.